In Superman’s hometown, union workers locked out UPDATE*

Metropolis, IL, isn’t just Superman’s hometown. The city is also home to America’s only uranium conversion plant. The uranium plant may not be as sensational as Superman, but this week it caught the attention of The New York Times.

Why? Because 68 workers from the plant are known to have come down with cancer—and 42 of those 68 have died. Worse still is that, despite those numbers, the plant isn’t taking action to care for its employees. In fact, the plant’s operator wants to slash pensions for newly hired workers and reduce health benefits for retirees.

Union workers at the plant aren’t asking for much. In the words of Darrell Lillie, president of United Steelworkers Local 7-669,

We deal with hydrofluoric acid. We make fluorine. This is bad stuff. The least we feel like we could have is good medical benefits when we retire.

The plant’s 220 union workers have been locked out since June 28. If there’s one thing that’s kryptonite for a hard-working city like Metropolis, it’s employers who shirk their responsibility to their employees and to the community.

*Update*

On Sunday September 5th, the day after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved replacement workers to continue core production at the Honeywell facility, there was a explosion at the plant.  The explosion occurred because hydrogen was accidentally recombined with fluorine.  Noise from the explosion prompted several calls by Metropolis residents to local authorities to investigate.

According to Mike Elk on The Huffington Post:

Local union officials claim that the workers are not properly trained to work in the plant. In a statement released last week USW Local 7-699 claimed, “The Union workforce was required to have extensive on-the-job training on running units from qualified trainers for several months prior to being qualified. We have recently learned that several Fluorination workers were deemed ‘qualified’ by company personnel after one week of training. Furthermore, Union employees were required to have been a qualified operator for six months on a running unit before they were allowed to begin to train another employee. The company is currently training their own employees with people who themselves are not qualified.”

Sadly, it appears that Honeywell is continuing to put their bottom line ahead of the safety of workers and the safety of the community.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 at 2:45 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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